According to the Community Security Trust, the defense organization of Britain’s 300,000-strong Jewish community, last year saw nearly 600 anti-Semitic assaults, incidents of vandalism, cases of abuse, and threats against Jewish individuals and institutions—double the 2001 number. According to the police, Jews are four times more likely to be attacked because of their religion than are Muslims. Every synagogue service and Jewish communal event now requires guards on the lookout for violence from both neo-Nazis and Muslim extremists. Orthodox Jews have become particular targets; some have begun wearing baseball caps instead of skullcaps and concealing their Star of David jewelry.
Anti-Semitism is rife within Britain’s Muslim community. Islamic bookshops sell copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the notorious czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; as an undercover TV documentary revealed in January, imams routinely preach anti-Jewish sermons. Opinion polls show that nearly two-fifths of Britain’s Muslims believe that the Jewish community in Britain is a legitimate target “as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East”; that more than half believe that British Jews have “too much influence over the direction of UK foreign policy”; and that no fewer than 46 percent think that the Jewish community is “in league with Freemasons to control the media and politics.”
But anti-Semitism has also become respectable in mainstream British society. “Anti-Jewish themes and remarks are gaining acceptability in some quarters in public and private discourse in Britain and there is a danger that this trend will become more and more mainstream,” reported a Parliamentary inquiry last year. “It is this phenomenon that has contributed to an atmosphere where Jews have become more anxious and more vulnerable to abuse and attack than at any other time for a generation or longer.”
At the heart of this ugly development is a new variety of anti-Semitism, aimed primarily not at the Jewish religion, and not at a purported Jewish race, but at the Jewish state. Zionism is now a dirty word in Britain, and opposition to Israel has become a fig leaf for a resurgence of the oldest hatred.
And now, in Britain and elsewhere, anti-Semitism has mutated again, its target shifting from culture to creed to race to nation. What anti-Semitism once did to Jews as people, it now does to Jews as a people. First it wanted the Jewish religion, and then the Jews themselves, to disappear; now it wants the Jewish state to disappear. For the presentation of Israel in British public discourse does not consist of mere criticism. It has become a torrent of libels, distortions, and obsessional vilification, representing Israel not as a country under exterminatory attack by the Arabs for the 60 years of its existence but as a regional bully persecuting innocent Palestinians who want only a homeland.
The Islamists oppose the Left’s most deeply held causes, such as gay rights and equality for women. Yet leftists and Islamists now march together under such slogans as “We are all Hezbollah now” during rallies protesting the Lebanon war, and even “Death to the Jews” outside a debate over whether Manchester University’s Jewish Society should be banned.
Many Britons deny the resurgence of anti-Semitism because they think of it as prejudice toward Jews as people and believe that it died with Hitler. The argument that attitudes toward Israel may be anti-Semitic strikes them as absurd. But consider the characteristics of anti-Semitism. It applies to the Jews expectations applied to no other people; it libels, vilifies, demonizes, and dehumanizes them; it scapegoats them not merely for crimes that they have not committed, but for crimes of which they are the victims; it holds them responsible for all the ills of the world. These characteristics remain precisely the same in today’s hatred of the Jewish state. Israel is held to standards expected of no other nation; it is libeled and vilified; it is blamed both for crimes that it has not committed and for those of which it is the victim; and it is held responsible for all the world’s misfortunes—most recently, Islamic terrorism.
Further, people across the political spectrum became increasingly unable to make moral distinctions based on behavior. This erasing of the line between right and wrong produced a tendency to equate, and then invert, the roles of terrorists and of their victims, and to regard self-defense as aggression and the original violence as understandable and even justified. That attitude is, of course, inherently antagonistic to Israel, which was founded on the determination never to allow another genocide of Jews, to defend itself when attacked, and to destroy those who would destroy it. But for the Left, powerlessness is virtue; better for Jews to die than to kill, because only as dead victims can they be moral.Sphere: Related Content